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DOJ expands ‘disability’ definition with new final rule updating ADA
By Camille Toney on August 26, 2016

The Department of Justice recently released its final rule extending coverage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) to Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This final rule, which takes effect Oct. 11, 2016, updates those titles to include the ADAAA.

Title II covers local and state governmental entities, and Title III covers places of public accommodations, including many types of private businesses that are open to the public and commercial facilities. 

 President George W. Bush signed the ADAAA into law effective Jan. 1, 2009, and authorized the attorney general to issue regulations under Titles II and III of the ADA.  The ADAAA applies to Titles I, II and III, and this final rule takes into account Executive Order 13563 (which called for coordinated rules and regulatory requirements across agencies) in its attempt to coordinate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s regulations incorporating the ADAAA in 2011. 

Signed into law in 2008, the ADAAA expanded the ADA’s coverage by redefining several key terms in the statute. In particular, that included what constitutes a “disability” for purposes of the statute’s coverage. The ADAAA overruled several Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of “disability.”

Pursuant to the ADAAA, an individual’s disability under the ADA should not require deep inquiry, and covered entities should focus more on their responsibility to not discriminate against an individual based on disability rather than determining whether the person is disabled.  In addition, the final rule expands the definition of “major life activity” and more fully expounds upon the term “substantially limits,” both of which are key factors in determining whether an individual is disabled. 

With the implementation of the final rule, these expanded definitions apply to state and local governmental entities, as well as private businesses that qualify as places of public accommodation. Covered entities should be aware of these changes and continue to focus on fostering an inclusive environment to ensure individuals are treated fairly regardless of circumstance.

To see the full text of the final rule, click here.  If you have questions about this final rule or how the ADA and these changes affect your company, please contact our Employment & Labor Group.  

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